We are writers Ben Flebbe and Dan Miles, and we are co-authoring our first graphic novel together. It's an adaptation of The Tale of the Heike, a medieval epic of great historical importance to Japan, but largely unknown to the rest of the world. It's a story of political intrigue, of brutal battles, and of surprisingly personal moments in the midst of overwhelming circumstances. It is also full of vivid symbolism and powerful imagery that make it ripe for a graphic novel adaptation.
We've already completed a full 22-page story as our first chapter, with the next chapter of our script ready to go to our artists. But to tell this story the way it deserves to be told, we want to release the first volume as one unit -- an extra 66 pages of content. And that's where you come in.
Japan’s iconic epic, The Tale of the Heike, was compiled in the early 1200s from disparate accounts of the Genpei War, the conflict that ended an era of peace and changed the course of the country's history.
Pieces of this story have been adapted many times for many audiences: as recitations, noh plays, kabuki plays, films, and television series. Our graphic novel adaptation aims to make the epic as a whole accessible to a new generation of readers.
We (Ben and Dan) met in college in 2007, playing Dungeons & Dragons, and we've been telling stories together ever since. To create Tale of the Taira, we're teaming up with artists Milan Misic (pencils and inks) and Milos Trajkovic (colors and letters). Though our team is scattered across four cities and two continents, we've already produced a full-length comic together, and we have a happy and efficient working relationship built on trust and shared vision.
Milan and Milos grew their skills as artists within a rich tradition of European comics. Their greatest inspiration is Mobius, the prolific artist most famous for Edena and Silver Surfer. They have collaborated on bringing in a variety of distinct styles to highlight different parts of the story.
Milan's character designs keep the large cast visually distinct while still drawing on their historical representations, ranging from 14th Century portraits to 1950s cinema. If you're curious, see if you can track down the inspirations for them!
You can check out more of Milan's work at: https://sismisic.deviantart.com/
We hope to tell the full story of this epic, across 5 or 6 volumes. But this first volume, "Debts to Heaven and Earth" is designed to be self-contained. Like many anthologies of the Heian era, we've chosen the stories based on theme, not chronology. Each story on its own provides a different take on the theme of loyalty. Each can be enjoyed on its own, but by putting them together, we aim to highlight the connections that give shape to a larger world.
"Debts to Heaven and Earth" will be a trade paperback containing 88 pages of story, broken down into 3 main stories, interspersed with 3 shorter anecdotes.
The Death of Seno: Because we've already finished this first story, we're in position to do a print run as soon as the campaign ends and ship them out immediately. This story is a part of the larger volume, "Debts to Heaven and Earth", so this is the last print run we'll be doing. We'll print enough to send to our backers and some extra to sell at cons and expos while we work on the rest of the first volume, and that's it.
Volume One - Debts to Heaven and Earth: This is it, the full first volume, containing "The Death of Seno", "Gio", "The Exile of the Abbot Meiun", and more.
Poster: We'll let Milan's concept art speak for itself on this one.
Special Edition Cover: Get a Kickstarter-exclusive variant cover for "Debts to Heaven and Earth", either by Milan Misic or, if we reach our stretch goal, by a special guest artist.
Signed copies: All signed copies are, by default, just signed by the two co-authors. If you would like your copy signed by the entire creative team, we're happy to do it, but will require extra shipping costs dependent on the individual order, so please email us to work out the details.
Sake bottle: A sake bottle featuring the Taira butterfly crest, the logo for Tale of the Taira.
First Edition "Seno": When we finished Seno, we did a very limited print run (30 issues) to pitch the story more effectively. A few were sent to publishers, a few are being kept for posterity, and the rest are only available now. These will contain some minor differences from the final version.
Original Page: Milan has agreed to part with the originals of up to 9 pages of "The Death of Seno." Backers selecting this reward can choose their page from a limited selection, in the order that they pledged.
1. $12k (locked) In-depth story breakdown PDF: A lot of interesting choices go on behind the scenes in adapting these stories. We'll write up some insights about how the characters and plots wound up in the form they did, what outside sources we drew on, the history of the stories, the weird details we wish we could have included, and even some of the sample art we commissioned when putting together our creative team for a glimpse at what might have been.
2. $14k (locked) Alternate cover from Conceptopolis: We're excited to collaborate with Conceptopolis on an alternate cover! They're an amazing art company known for their work on the Legend of Five Rings card game, most of the pieces in the 5th Edition D&D Dungeon Master's Guide and Monster Manual, and other video games like Legends of Norrath and Just Cause 3.
If we reach this stretch goal, their artists will produce a special variant cover for our Kickstarter exclusive edition. This will become the cover for all rewards of the "Minister of the Right" ($50) tier and above.
Future stretch goals will get more description as we approach them.
The primary goal of this Kickstarter is to raise the money to pay our artists for the remaining 66+ pages of content going into the first volume.
For our writing team, this project has been a labor of love; we've funded the project to this point out of pocket, and we fully expect we may need to do the same for some of the printing costs before we start seeing returns. But our art team work as artists full-time. They can't put in months of work now and wait for payment down the road.
Our base goal is to raise enough to keep paying them a per page rate that will allow for them to keep producing the level of quality we all want. Stretch goals will help us offset those printing costs and to speed up our process.
Shipping and Distribution:
When PDF rewards are ready, we'll put out a backer update letting you know to log into our website at www.PeersOfMenard.com (with the email address associated with your kickstarter account) and providing you with a download code. If you have any problems with this process, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Printing and distribution for all books and posters will be handled by Kraken Print.
DOMESTIC SHIPPING: We offer USPS media mail shipping within the United States.
INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING: International shipping is not included in your pledge. If you want your rewards shipped outside of the US, please contact us directly to discuss shipping cost estimates for your particular case. You will be responsible for all shipping costs, fees, etc. for your order.
Tale of the Taira on the Web:
You can find us at any of the following:
Risks and challenges
We've completed one entire issue before launching -- script, art, and even an initial test print run, to make sure we have experience with every part of the process. And we've already finished the script for the next one. Our art team knows graphic novels inside and out. And our printer, Kraken Print, specializes in printing graphic novels and has plenty of experience doing Kickstarter fulfillment. This is our first Kickstarter campaign, but we've made absolutely sure to put in the work and surround ourselves with the right people to follow through on our vision.
Our entire team is dedicated to seeing this project through. As far as risks go for you as a backer, we may run into unexpected production delays, but we will make sure that when we're done we put a book in your hands (or a pdf in your inbox, as the case may be).Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (35 days)